Sunday, March 25, 2012

Experiments On The Bike

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try a few new things on the bike. The thing to remember with experiements is that even if one was not a "success" it was still successful if something is learned. I've been doing some learning.

First up: road racing. Just before the IronBruin I found out about the Mash, a local series of races around the parking lots of Magic Mountain. I didn't want to do it before the tri or just after it so I waited until March 14 to give it a shot. That day I left work a little early, got my one-day license and number, and started warming up...or what I thought was warming up. We gathered together at the starting line and soon it was on. You know those nice neutral starts you see the pros doing on TV? This was nothing like that, with attacks starting right away. This was when I found out that I was not nearly warmed up enough. I tried hanging on but this was my first time on the course (I didn't know I could warm up on it while another race was going on) so I didn't take the first few corners (including a 180) very well and I was pretty quickly off the back. The start taking place on a slight uphill didn't help, either.

Ah, riding solo. Just like my training. :-) I tried going hard but I didn't take the corners in that first lap so well and (no surprise) even the slightest uphill slowed me way down compared to the main pack. I kept going as hard as I could but I knew it was going to be futile. The course is about two miles long with both left and right turns. After the first lap I finally felt warmed up but the inclines were taking a lot out of me so I didn't feel all that much stronger. On the other hand, I was taking the turns much better. After a few more laps of being by myself I was briefly joined by the breakaway when they lapped me. I think the main pace line flew by me on the next lap. I thought about trying to hang on as they went by but I didn't think that would be good etiquette and, frankly, I'm not sure I could do it. The nice thing about getting lapped, though, is that my race was one lap less than everybody else, which I appreciated.

I finally finished and was completely gassed. That profound kind of tired that you feel deep within you for days. Lousy race but great workout. Still, I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon. I'm glad I did it and I couldn't have picked a better place to give it a try but I don't think I should try a road race again until I weigh a lot less--I'm talking 30 pounds or so.

Next up: track cycling. I had pretty high hopes for this. I mean, have you seen what some track cyclists look like? Reminds me more of my physique than, say, the Schleck brothers. So I headed over to the Encino Velodrome yesterday for their Introduction to Track Racing class. Learned about the bikes (mine was a rental), etiquette, and things like that. Then it was time to head out onto the track. I have never been on a fixed-gear bike before so that took a bit of getting used to. We just went round and round, moving up-track and down-track. Next was a paceline. We probably did 25 laps. Started out slow but then our instructor had us speeding up the last several laps and, to my surprise, told us we'd be sprinting the last lap. Woo too! Before that last lap, though, there was a gap in the paceline so I had to bridge up to the lead pack, which was easy enough. That last lap was tough and fun. We really sprinted! I ended up not being able to beat the girl out front but I had a blast! Of course, my first instinct after crossing the line was to coast--you can't do that on a fixed-gear bike--but just one pedal-stroke was all I needed to learn not to do that again.

I dropped down to the infield to do a little cooling off when someone pulled up alongside me and asked, "You've really never been on a track before?" Nope. "Wow. You've got some talent."

Next up was flying 200s, "Encino-style". I was to lead the group around the track while one rider at a time peeled off and did a 200 meter time-trial (against the clock) with a flying start. Funny thing about being the leader of a class of beginners (actually, there were experienced women in the group, too): some people complained I wasn't going fast enough, some complained that I was going too fast. I guess that meant my pace was just right. After about a dozen riders it was my turn. The idea is to build up speed high on the track, then drop down at the start to use the downhill to my advantage, and go really, really hard for 200 meters. I remember dropping down well, not taking that first turn so well, surprised that I took the next turn fairly well, and having enough to speed up down the final straightway. All in 15.9 seconds. Turns out I was first in the group by quite a margin, which is a nice change from my road racing experience the week before (yes, I know it was a group of beginners and women but still).

Right after that was a three-lap pursuit against the girl that beat me in the paceline sprint but I had just come off the 200 and was still wiped out from that so I didn't have a chance. After that was a drill/game where we tried to take handkerchiefs out of the jerseys of the other riders. It was great fun.

Until I crashed.

The game was nearly done when a young girl (probably 11) headed up-track right in front of me without checking over her shoulder. It all happened pretty fast. Bottom line is that we crashed and as I went down I smacked the back of my head on the track pretty hard. My Giro Ionos gave its life so I wouldn't have to take a trip to the hospital. She was okay, I was okay. A few scrapes, some broken spokes, and some twisted seats and handlebars, and she had a little rip on her jersey. Fortunately we weren't going very fast so we both ended up okay.

That didn't discourage me, though. I'd still like to do more track cycling. Just need to save up some money for more classes and whatnot. It was tons of fun. Even the crash wasn't that bad.

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